Whenever you lose a game badly like Penn State did a couple weeks ago vs Ohio State 63-14, it is easy to digest because you know you just were simply outplayed. However, when you lose a game because of costly turnovers and poor execution on both sides of the ball, it eats away at you, and as a fan I know it is frustration beyond belief because it was not so much Minnesota winning the game, but more so Penn State losing it because they beat themselves!
Right from the get go on the very first play of the game, Bill Belton took the hand off from Christian Hackenberg only to fumble the ball in their own terroritry. Penn State was able to hold Minnesota to a 3 & out, but the Golden Gophers still came away with 3 points after the turnover.
Penn State's problem in the first half was giving up 1st downs on 3rd and 4th & long. When Minnesota scored a touchdown (TD) to make it 10-0, the Golden Gophers went 96 yards on 15 plays and took off 8 minutes and 10 seconds off the clock. During that drive alone, Penn State gave up two 3rd & longs for first downs and allowed Minnesota to convert on 4th and short to keep the drive going.
Penn State did respond quickly after giving up a TD by going 75 yards in 6 plays in just 2 minutes and 6 seconds when Zach Zwinak took it in the endzone from 6 yards out for a TD to cut the lead to 10-7. Zwinak had 61 rushing yards on that drive.
On the Gophers next drive, they converted again on both 3rd and 4th & long for first downs. This allowed Minnesota to keep the drive alive and eventually get that TD right back and go back up by 10. Penn State would drive the ball deep in Minnesota terrority on the ensuing possession, but would ultimately settle for a Sam Ficken Field Goal (FG) to cut the lead to seven.
Minnesota would receive the ball back once more before the end of the half. With 22 seconds remaining in the half on 3rd and 10, Minnesota Quarterback found a wide open Maxx Williams in the corner to give the Gophers a two touchdown advantage heading into the locker room. Penn State obviously needed to make adjustments, especially on the defensive side of the ball!
It seemed something was indeed changed up as during Minnesota's second possession of the 2nd half, Quarterback Donovahn Jones fumbled the ball and Penn State recovered at the Minnesota 37!
Penn State could not do anything with it and in four plays did not move the ball past the original line of scrimmage, forcing the Nittany Lions to punt it. After Minnesota was forced to punt, Penn State started at its own 2 with the possession continuing heading into the fourth quarter. Penn State would put on a decent drive and got to the Minnesota 39 with a 1st & 10. Unfortunately the drive stalled and after deciding to go for it on 4th down when a pass intended for Matt Zanellato fell incomplete from Quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
The Penn State defense forced another 3 & out and Penn State started their next drive on their own 12. Penn State set up a nice screen from Christian Hackenberg to Bill Belton that went for 30 yards all the way down inside the Minnesota 20, at the 16 yard line. However, Penn State could do nothing with it after 4 straight incomplete passes caused a turnover on downs and another missed opportunity by the Nittany Lions!
Again, despite a sloppy first half by the Penn State defense, they forced another 3 & out and got the ball back at their own 39 yd line. It took Penn State just four plays to get to the Minnesota 7 after Hackenberg hooked up with both Allen Robinson and Adam Brenemanm, along with a nice Bill Belton run. Penn State would set the ball at the Minnesota on 2 & Goal and looked to cap off the drive with a score. Unfortunately, Christian Hackenberg could not handle the snap and the Golden Gophers recovered as Penn State threw away another golden opportunity to convert a drive into some points! Though there was still 6:40 remaining, the Penn State defense had done all it could and Minnesota would run the clock out. Yes Minnesota won and you cannot take away the fact that they played a decent game, but you cannot also deny the fact the Penn State lost due to shooting themselves in the foot multiple times by giving up big plays on 3rd & long and giving up 4th down conversions as well as missing multiple opportunities to put some points on the board.
This is one of the more frustrating games in recent Penn State football history. Many chances, each of them blown one right after another. Penn State faces Purdue next weekend at home. While Penn State can still finish 8-4, finishing above .500 looks like to be the current goal for this current group of players and its team.
Notes: Prior to entering its matchup with Minnesota, Penn State was 6 for 6 on not allowing opposing teams to convert on 4th Down. Today, they went 0 for 3
Minnesota converted on 3rd & 6 (or longer) for a first down four times throughout the game
Penn State Wide Receiver Allen Robinson surpassed Bobby Engram's single season receiving yards record (1,084 in 1995) in the program's history. Robinson currently has 1,106 receiving yards with 3 games yet remaining.
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